Clean Your Tools! A Review of Guidebooks for Academic Writing

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Demystify Stylish Writing in 12 Weeks!

HandwritingNo, that is not really a title!! We are excited about Stylish Academic Writing by Helen Sword, a new book for academic writers. It joins others you have heard us recommend. Summer in the U.S. finds us reading or rereading books about our work. Today we will review a few of our favorites, beginning with the new one.

Helen Sword’s guide is grounded in her study of over a thousand peer-reviewed articles, and her research surprises us! Authors in the sciences, for instance, use their personal voice far more often than do those in the humanities. Editors prefer lively writing, despite the common belief that academic writing should be sober, subdued, and formalized.

She proceeds to guide us to enliven our own writing. Using inspiring and embarrassing examples from peer-reviewed articles, she shows us that academic writers can indeed engage us as they inform us. Her chapter titles are, of course, lively and pointed; among them:

  • Voice and Echo
  • Tempting Titles
  • Hooks and Sinkers
  • The Story Net
  • Show and Tell

You will want to try her suggestions for reviewing your titles, introductions, sentences, examples, or citations. Each chapter ends with “Things to Try,” specific steps to examine your writing with an eye toward more stylish prose. You will probably find a small change that could transform your article, chapter, or book!

Read the rest of the article: Clean Your Tools!  A Review of Guidebooks for Academic Writing



Becker, Howard S. (2007). Writing for Social Scientists. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Belcher, Wendy Laura. (2009). Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success: Sage Publications.

Boice, Robert. (1990). Professors as writers: a self-help guide to productive writing. Stillwater OK: New Forums Press.

Bolker, Joan. (1998). Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day. New York: Holt.

Germano, William. (2005). From Dissertation to Book. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Rocco, Tonette S., & Hatcher, Tim (Eds.). (2011). The Handbook of Scholarly Writing and Publishing. San Francisco Jossey-Bass.

Silva, Paul J. (2007). How to write a lot: a practical guide to productive academic writing. Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Single, Peg Boyle. (2010). Demystifying Dissertation Writing: A Streamlined Process from Choice of Topic to Final Text: Stylus.

Sword, Helen. (2012). Stylish Academic Writing. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.


**Warning: Shameless Plug Alert:

Join the Academic Writing Club. It will give you the ongoing encouragement, gentle nudges, and a group of supportive colleagues to help you get clear that You are the experiment, and your behavior is the data. Joining the writing club will help you get real about your work and get on with it.

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